They slept in total darkness for a month, carefully wrapped in soft cloths and furs, hidden away in a box. Quiet and patient spirits inhabiting skulls, bones, feathers, teeth, claws, horns, antlers, stones, fetiches, and a witch’s tools. Then one day light flooded in and gentle hands descended to remove them one by one, laying them out first on a blanket and then arranging the spirits on top of a antique dresser nicknamed “the beast”; a massive, solid wooden creature with hidden drawers, ancient keyholes, and intricate barley twists. Skulls grinned, feathers ruffled, and blessed water shone blue through a holey stone and a silver ring – all on a softly spotted tawny deer hide layered with the fur of a black wolf.
Old Man and Old Woman settled their ancient bones back into the remnants of creatures native to their wild domain, no doubt having missed their shrine and the once regular offerings to be found there. The Moon’s candle was restored to its place above breasts and belly carved from stone, surrounded by offerings. She eats beeswax greedily like blood offerings, leaving nothing behind. A candle lit to welcome the spirits back with sweetest incense burned and fresh water poured to sate their hunger. The spirits sigh happily, the new house sighs like a person with a once empty belly filled. Even breathing feels easier now with the altar and all its spirits in their proper place of reverence.
It feels good, so good to have a place to leave offerings again and to have a piece of the wild in my new home now that I live in the city with the forest much further away. At least here I will be able to have a garden, growing poisons, medicines, and foods once more. I still have seeds from the henbane plants I grew two years ago and we will soon transplant some of the Poisoner’s monkshood roots he’d been growing for five years at his old house.
Many people have asked me how my magical practice has changed since becoming pregnant. This question confused me at first because I didn’t understand why it should be expected to change… and it hasn’t. Sure, I can’t use my flying ointments for a couple years until I finish breastfeeding, but I can still make my tested and true recipes using practical precautions. I can’t share alcoholic libations with my spirits on the full and dark moons at the moment, but that just means more for them.
I’m still an animist and a folk magician with my simple devotions and rites. I still talk to plants and animals and honour the ancestors. The house still gets cleansed and blessed on full moons. I still dream true dreams. Unfamiliar spirits are still unwelcome in the house and I wear protections when venturing out to protect myself and my little one. The only real change has been temporarily shelving the more intense witchcraft practices as my energy levels are low. I’ve taken a break from hosting rites, bone collecting, and shape-shifting.
Life continues on as normal; cooking, cleaning, recycling, grocery shopping, visiting with friends, hosting witches and scholars in my kitchen, crafting flying ointments, packaging orders of ointments and artwork, shipping and more shipping for Black Arts Foundry… The yellow brugmansia and purple datura continue to grow and grow, happily indoors for the winter. The sun shines bringing cold and frost. The clouds come bringing warmth and rain. Green things pop up from black earth, buds slowly form, earthworms slink out of their dark homes on wet days. Imbolc arrives, harbinger of spring to come. The dead must return into the earth for soon all living things will rule once more.
The fine bone china is brought out and filled with rustic buttered bread, slices of gruyère cheese drizzled with local honey, an egg, and a fragrant sliced apple. A tiny crystal glass is filled with milk for the libation. The offerings are left on the altar overnight for my spirits and the next day are buried in the garden under the yew trees to feed the physical creatures that roam these parts (mainly raccoons, crows, and rats).
Imbolc blessings to you and yours! May the dead return to the underworld without taking the souls of your loved ones, may winter’s icy grip loosen in your region, may buds grow and flowers bloom, and may you be surrounded by love and prosperity.